Mantle Convection with Plates and Mobile, Faulted Plate Margins

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Science  10 Feb 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5199, pp. 838-843
DOI: 10.1126/science.267.5199.838


A finite-element formulation of faults has been incorporated into time-dependent models of mantle convection with realistic rheology, continents, and phase changes. Realistic tectonic plates naturally form with self-consistent coupling between plate and mantle dynamics. After the initiation of subduction, trenches rapidly roll back with subducted slabs temporarily laid out along the base of the transition zone. After the slabs have penetrated into the lower mantle, the velocity of trench migration decreases markedly. The inhibition of slab penetration into the lower mantle by the 670-kilometer phase change is greatly reduced in these models as compared to models without tectonic plates.